Huun Huur Tu Gallop Back to Tuva's Traditions With a Saddlebag of New Tricks
The ancient Tuvan song 'Chyraa-Khoor,' explains Radik Tyulyush of the Tuvan band Huun Huur Tu, tells the story of a man riding his horse – a yellow trotter, as the title translates.
"It's a very good horse for traveling, and he took it from the west of Tuva to the east of Tuva, traveling around and giving the names of everything – names of the mountains, names of the forests," he says over the phone from his home in Kyzyl, the capital of the Russian Federation republic that sits just north of Mongolia.
Even if you don't know the words, the music paints a stirring picture.
"That is a very old melody," says Tyulyush, the newest and, at 35, the youngest member of the group, who plays traditional flute and joins his bandmates in the signature Tuvan throat singing. "Very, very old – 13 or 14 centuries. Very old music."
And running through it is a classic bit of musical mimicry:
"We play the rhythm of the horse," he says, adding onomatopoeically: "Chk-chk-chk."
The song, in the version taken by Huun Huur Tu, was given to group leader Kaigal-ool Khovalyg by a folk scholar years ago, with instructions to take it around the world, and it became a core part of the group's repertoire throughout its two-decade career. But HHT kept riding that musical horse well beyond the Tuvan borders, taking the sounds and culture of the group's home all over the globe.
But the musicians also brought a lot back with them. And the new album, 'Ancestors Call,' showcases the many things the band absorbed along the way. The ongoing journey has seen the group collaborate with the Bulgarian woman's choir Angelite and, on a recent album, ' Eternal,' team with Los Angeles